Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lily of the Tower by Elizabeth Hart

Publisher:                           Bella Books

Netherfield estate has long held a mystery shrouded in tragedy.  Local people try to avoid going there, but on a stormy night Agnes Headey needs shelter and Netherfield is the only place nearby.  Strange sounds in the night lead her to discover a dark story of a sister locked away in a tower for her immoral behavior with a servant many years before.  Agnes makes it her mission to befriend Lily Netherfield and discovers a woman who causes her to question everything she thinks she knows about herself.  Lily knows what challenging the conventional thought can cost a person and Agnes is awakening feelings that Lily has tried to repress.  Agnes knows she is expected to marry James Thornton and settle her future, but that isn't where her heart is leading her.  It will take great courage to free Lily from her tower and defy the path that society is insisting they should follow.

Elizabeth Hart has created a treat for fans of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and the Regency period in England.  Lily of the Tower radiates the rich feel of a time when manners and social status defined the standards for happiness, not personal feelings.  There are also undertones of a Gothic romance.  A student of the era might argue that Agnes has more freedom than would be granted young gentlewomen of the period, but that's not enough to interfere with the plot.  The house is creaky, the servants are obedient and properly fearful and the master is just a little bit insane, or so it seems.

Lily of the Tower is a lush story set in a time when being a homosexual was not only illegal, but could result in commitment to an insane asylum.  The ways that Lily and Agnes battle with this reality makes for a very interesting and satisfying book.

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